Let’s begin with our experience
We visited the Wilpattu National Park Safari which is well known for its leopard sightings, and is actually the reason I choose it. I love elephants, but I’ve seen a lot of elephants, so I figured we could try and spot something different. It was an AMAZING safari, and fantastically priced on booking. com and you can read about the experience here.
But imagine, staying in a luxury tent, dining underneath the stars, and you’ll have a taste of what a Wilpattu National Park Safari is like.
Going on safari in Sri lanka
There are 22 Sri Lanka national parks. But with so much choice, it’s hard to know where to start searching for the perfect Sri lanka safari tours. Sri Lanka wildlife consists of amazing elephants, bears, leopards and so much more.
Here’s a detailed look at the 6 most popular national parks in Sri Lanka for safaris.
Yala safaris in Sri Lanka
About Yala national park
Yala national park is probably the most popular and well known safari in all of Sri Lanka. It’s the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and it’s a wonderful safari experience for all, especially families.
Yala safari is located around six hours from Colombo which is why most people organise a tour here (some of which I’ve listed below).
Animals to see in Yala national park safari:
- 215 bird species including , Sri Lanka wood pigeon, blue-tailed bee-eater, amongst many others
- 44 mammals including, the famous Sri Lankan elephant, leopards (Yala has the highest density of leopards in the world), the Sri Lanka sloth bear, and many more.
- 47 reptile species including the Sri Lankan flying snake, Indian cobra, and saltwater crocodile, among others.
The only problem with Yala is that because it is so popular, you’re going to be in a park that is filled with jeeps. You may even see more jeeps than animals, and because of the high number of visitors, the chances of seeing leopards is slim due to the noise etc.
But, you have a very high chance of seeing lots of elephants, so if you love elephants and don’t mind the crowds, then it’s a great choice! This is probably the best elephant safari Sri Lanka has to offer.
If you're wondering when the best time to visit yala national park is then be aware that Yala is closed during the drought season from the 1st of September to the 15th of October, but you can visit other national parks at this time, including Wilpattu.
Be aware that all my safari suggestions below include accommodation and safari for one night unless otherwise stated. I always find it’s best to get everything booked beforehand, plus it makes you excited!
Best luxury safaris in Yala
If you want an luxury safari sri lanka experience in Yala national park, then these spots will not fail to deliver.
$450 per person
This is an excellent Sri Lanka safari that offers luxurious accommodation amongst the jungle with an all inclusive experience. Imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse with your own camp fire underneath the stars.
The price is excellent for the beautiful accommodation, all your food and drink and two game drives with a professional and qualified guide.
They take care of everything, so all you need to worry about is spotting animals and having an amazing time!
You can do a 2 night version of this same trip but with Viator.
Remember if you do a 2 day safari you'll have a better chance of experiencing a night safari Sri Lanka style.
$725 for two people all inclusive
This is a brilliant safari tour and you can go for an all-inclusive option that includes all your food, drinks, alcohol drinks and 2 game drives. Great value. The accommodation is in the style of luxury tents with little decks which is perfect for dining under the stairs.
It will feel like you're camping in Sri Lanka, but in ultimate luxury.
Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
Prices start at $700 for two people all inclusive
An all-inclusive stay with accommodation location within the jungle and a safari experience. Everything is included within this price, food, drinks, alcoholic drinks, spa experiences. It’s TOTAL luxury, but it’s expensive, but you can see why.
It's the perfect jungle safari in Sri Lanka.
Take me with you. Book your stay here.
Best budget safaris in Yala
If you want a budget experience in Yala national park, then you’ll need to book cheap accommodation within Yala vicinity then book a day safari. You’ll still get all the animal sightings experience, but miss out on the camping and dinner under the stars. Below are some great value choices.
Viator Budget Yala Half Day Safari Experience
$37.50 per person
Includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Yala, Katagrama area, and a 4 hour safari keep experience. Get it here.
Viator Private Yala Half Day Safari
$38.25 per person
If you’re on time constraints, then this is a great choice. It includes pick up from your hotel and you can arrange an early money or afternoon safari experience to suit your day. Includes a private driver for a private experience.
Great choice for couples on a budget looking for a Yala safari.
Yala day safari from Mirissa
For just $32 with Klook, you can take this awesome day tour safari of Yala National Park from Mirissa. Transfers and safari experience included but you will need to pay the entrance fee to the national park. There is a morning and afternoon safari option too! Great for those on a strict budget.
Elephant Lake Yala
$220 dollars per night
I’ve also included this one, as I think it’s a budget option for two reasons:
- You can book an all-inclusive option that includes your accommodation, all your food, all alcohol drinks and a half day safari for only $105 dollars each, which is BRILLIANT value for absolutely everything.
- You can book to stay in a tent and just breakfast for $33 dollars each per night and add on a safari experience.
Best mid range safaris in Yala
Eco Island Sri Lanka Tented Safari Camp Yala
$288 per night (based on two people sharing)
This mid-range accommodation offers you the chance to stay in a beautiful tent within the jungle alongside breakfast and dinner under the stairs. The price includes a 5 hour game drive and it’s a great choice for those who have a little extra to spend and would like the overnight experience of a safari. 5 hours is a good amount of time to see some amazing animals!
Big Game Camp Yala
$264 per night (based on two people sharing)
Big Game camp is the company that Bradley and I stayed with in Wilpattu, and they offer safari experiences in both Yala and Udawalawe.
You get five star service for a mid range price, and I personally think it’s excellent value for money. You get to stay in a luxury tent underneath the stars in jungle surroundings. The dining underneath the stars in the evening is a spectacular experience with a 5 course meal.
The staff at Big Game Camp are outstanding across the board and you’ll truly not want to leave!
With the safari option you get a half day safari, an afternoon tea, and breakfast and dinner under the stars.
Best luxury Yala safari for couples and honeymoons
I’ve included two safaris which I think ooze romance and bliss for couple travellers who simply want to have a romantic safari experience, or who are celebrating their honeymoon. These are both all inclusive options and include two game drives.
The tents are beyond luxurious and it’s a truly wilderness safari experience that screams romance. You’ll see what I mean…
Jetwing Safari Camp (All Inclusive)
$467 based on two people sharing
Yala Tented Camp by Ajith Safaris - All Inclusive
$678 based on two people sharing
Wilpattu safaris in Sri Lanka
Wilpattu national park is a perfect choice if you’re visiting the cultural hubs of Anuradhapura as it’s only 30 minutes away by tuk tuk. This is the park Bradley and I visited and it’s wonderful.
It’s famous for its natural pools of water that exist, so you get a true essence of the “wild” here. It’s the perfect safari in Sri Lanka for all seasons as both the wet and dry season bring different types of animals.
Wilpattu is among the top national parks world-renowned for its leopard population, which is why Bradley and I visited. The best time to visit Wilpattu is February to October, but you can visit all year round with certain eco groups.
Animals to see in Wilpattu national park safari:
- Birds: there are lots of amazing birds to see including The painted stork, the open bill, little cormorant, Sri Lankan junglefowl among others
- Mammals: 31 species of mammals have been identified so far including the Sri Lanka elephant, the Sri Lankan sloth bear, leopards, water buffalo, spotted deer, amongst others
- Reptiles: The most common reptiles include the common cobra, the mugger crocodile, Indian python amongst others
Wilpattu is a quiet national park, probably because it was closed for so long, but that’s a good thing. You will only come across 2 or 3 jeeps on your journey (if even that) and you will truly feel like you’ve got the whole park to you and the wildlife, which I think is what a true safari experience should be like.
So if you want a secluded Sri Lankan Safari experience, then this is the perfect one for you.
Mahoora Tented Safari Camp All-Inclusive
This is a fantastic all-inclusive option for a Wilpattu Safari experience. It includes everything you could ever need, food, drink, alcohol drinks, One Half-day safari ride in a luxury jeep with forward-facing seats, even a picnic lunch on the safari day, and much more.
Leopard Trails Wilpattu
A 5 star resort that oozes luxury, and it’s no surprise with the price. It includes everything you need including, food, drinks, alcoholic drinks, and two game drives.
Private day tour
Afternoon game drive
If you are on a time constraint, then an afternoon safari in Wilpattu is a great idea. This tour leaves from Anuradhapura, which is perfect as it’s only 20 minutes away and something you can do after a morning of sightseeing in the area!
Budget Day Trip from Anuradhapura
Another awesome budget option is this tour with Klook which is only $35. You can book it here.
This is the safari in Sri Lanka that Brad and I went on. I think this is the best Sri Lanka safari on offer. I can say it’s amazing value, an amazing experience and you can read all about it here.
Udawalawe safaris in Sri Lanka
Udawalawe national park is located near South of Sri Lanka and it is literally bursting with Sri Lankan elephants...more than 500, so it’s an elephant lovers dream. You’re almost guaranteed to spot them with those numbers.
- Bids: Over 180 species of birds including, Sri Lanka spurfowl, red-faced malkoha, Sri Lanka grey hornbill, brown-capped babble among others. It’s actually regarded as one of the top bird watching sights in all of Sri Lanka
- Mammals: There are over 42 mammals recorded in the park, particularly notable for its Sri Lankan Asian elephants. Other mammals include, Sri Lankan leopard, sloth bear, sambar deer, wild boar among others.
- Reptiles: There are over 32 reptile species including, oriental garden lizards, mugger crocodiles, and 30 species of snakes, among others.
This is a perfect choice for those who want to get awesome pictures of elephants and baby elephants. It’s a fairly popular park, but won’t have the same crowds of Yala, so it’s a good choice for those looking for something in between Wilpattu and Yala, and since it’s good for spotting animals all year round, there are no seasonal restrictions on when you visit.
That's why people love a Sri Lanka safari Udawalawe.
Best luxury safaris in Udawalawe
All all-inclusive tent jungle experience in beautiful Udawalawe. Highly rated food, accommodation and safari experience, this is an excellent choice for families and friends. Reviews say they take you up real close to the elephants!
Private Tour: Udawalawe National Park Safari (half day)
If you’d like your own romantic private safari tour of Udawalawe national park then this is a great value choice. It’s a half day safari giving you the chance to spot some animals in a morning game drive.
Private full day tour of Udawalawe national park safari
Best mid range safaris in Udawalawe
Big game camp Udawalawe
I’ve said before how brilliant our experience with Big Game Camp was in Wilpattu and it seems like the experience in Udawalawe is just as good according to the reviews, value and what’s offered.
Minneriya safaris in Sri Lanka
Minneriya national park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and it’s a perfect choice if you’re visiting Sigiriya, (which you should). It’s one of the most important bird areas in Sri Lanka. It has an interesting elephant story…
According to the wardens, one elephant lost her baby due when pregnant due to being hit by a jeep, so as revenge, she rammed into over 15 tourists since then.
- Birds: 160 species of birds which is why it’s an important bird area
- Mammals: It’s recorded there is 24 different types of mammals in the park including, Sri Lankan elephant, deer, purple-faced langur and toque macaque monkeys among others.
- Reptile: 25 reptiles including Painted-lip lizard, Saltwater crocodile, Indian python, Asian water monitor, among others.
People tend to take a Minneriya national park safari for the chance of seeing elephants and monkeys. So if you’re a fan of both, then this is a good spot. A good time to take a Minneriya national park safari is July to September as that’s when the elephants flock there.
Best safaris in Minneriya
With regards to booking online, there isn’t a WIDE range of choice, but there is a good value private tour listed below. This is because the park isn’t as popular as other marks, so it’s really only worth a day tour, rather than an overnight safari experience.
If you’re on a time constraint, then opt for this. Because you will be near Sigiriya, it’s always worth staying there, then doing your safari from there. It’s popular for companies and lodges to offer safaris with them too.
If you need a place to stay near Minneriya, then I recommend the Cassandra Culture Resort, because it’s cheap, luxurious and has amazing views. You won’t regret it, trust me.
Private tour of Minneriya national park
If you’d like your own private safari tour of Minneriya national park sorted before you arrive, then this is a good choice. It also offers pick up and drop off within the area which will save on tuk tuk costs!
Bundala safaris in Sri Lanka
Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. It’s located in the Southern area of Sri Lanka and it well known for its bird population and it’s located around 4.5 hours from Colombo.
I haven’t heard much about this park in terms of reviews, and it’s very close to Yala so it probably loses a lot of competition from there, but that’s probably a good thing which makes it quieter to visit.
- Birds: Almost a whopping 200 bird species are located in the park
- Mammals: 32 mammals inhibit the park including some elephants, leopard, wild boar, mouse deer, among others
- Reptiles: There are 43 species of reptiles including rat snake, python, crocodile, amongst others
I think is probably one of the least visited national parks in Sri Lanka and it’s not a good choice if you want to see elephants. But, if you like birds and reptiles then it’s a great choice! The best time to take a Bundala national park safari is September to March.
Best safaris in Bundala
Full day safari with Picnic
If you’re looking for a full day safari in Bundala then this is a great choice. You’ll start your day at 5.30 with a pick up from your hotel and head out to find amazing animals, then you’ll stop half way through for a picnic lunch in the jungle, then head back to your hotel at around 4.30pm.
Bundala national park safari
Wasgamuwa safaris in Sri Lanka
Wasgamuwa national park is located central of Sri Lanka and was actually created by the government to help displaced wild animals (one of four).
- Birds: There are 143 species of bird in the park including, Endemic red-faced malkoha, Lesser adjutant, yellow-fronted barbet, amongst others.
- Mammals: There are a recorded 23 mammals in the park including, 154 Sri Lankan elephants, monkeys, water buffalo, amongst others. Sightings of leopards and sloth bears are rare.
- Reptiles: There are 17 species including, mugger crocodile and water monitor.
Budget safari at Wasgamuwa national park
TCS Safari Village
This safari village offers budget accommodation, and you can book on a great value safari trip when you are there. They offer both full day and half way game drives.
Safari at Wasgamuwa National Park
Luxury safaris at Wasgamuwa national park
Explorer by Mahoora - Wasgamuwa
$980 based on two people sharing
This is definitely a luxurious option for those looking to truly relax and unwind on their safari experience.
It’s an all inclusive option that covers your food, drink, alcoholic beverages, luxury tented accommodation and of course your high quality game drive with guide. You even get a picnic on your drive as well!
Mid range safaris in Wasgamuwa national park
Camping in Wasgamuwa National Park
You can opt to stay overnight in the park for one or two nights on an all inclusive options with tented accommodation, 3 course dinner, beer, and two safari game drives for twice the chances to spot amazing animals.
Kumana national park safaris in Sri Lanka
Kumana national park safari is located near Arugam bay, and you can actually do a tuk-tuk safari before you get to the official entrance, which is pretty cool. You can spot elephants, deer and water buffalo.
Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name on 5th September 2006.
- Mammals: The different types of mammals include, the golden jackal, wild boar, Sri Lankan elephant, and the European otter.
I think this is a good safari in Sri Lanka if you’re surfing in Arugam bay and just want something close and easy. You might not see as many animals as you would on say, a Yala safari, but it’s fun all the same!
Private tour of Kumana national park
One night camping in Kumana national park safari
If you’d like the chance to stay overnight and do camping with a safari experience, then this is a great choice and it’s even better as it’s organised from Colombo which is where you’ll be flying in to!
Ridiyagama safari park in Sri Lanka
Ridiyagama is a safari park and the first of is kind in all of Sri Lanka. It’s 500 acres and it’s more a zoo, I’d say, except you’re the ones in cages and the animals roam free.
This was one Sri Lanka national park I wasn't aware of before my research, or during my visit.
This safari has animals from other countries too such as camels, zebras, lions, etc, but they all roam free. You can take a day tour to it here from Colombo.
Cost for entrance into Ridiyagama safari park:
Adult: LKR 2500.00
Common FAQ about safaris in Sri Lanka
How much do Sri Lanka safaris cost?
If you've been wondering about a Sri Lanka safari price, it can range greatly.
You can definitely get a cheap safari by using online websites like the suggestions I’ve made above, but mainly the cheap way to do it is to book your accommodation with booking.com and book an full day or half day tour with an online booking company.
Check out these sites for the best deals.
If you want luxury, then you can find that too, and the safaris in Sri Lanka that I suggested above are about as luxurious as it gets!
Personally I think yes. When you get to Sri Lanka and try and buy a safari in a tour or something, then you’ll often get charged more because you’re white and people often expect you to have lots of money.
It can sometimes be hard and hassle to negotiate, so if you book a tour ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money and you can pay for it in advanced. Overall, Sri Lanka safari tours are bet bought in advance.
There are safaris in Sri Lanka available all year round. So depending on the month you decide to go, you’ll find something.
Throughout this post, I’ve listed the best times to visit each safari in Sri Lanka, so use that as a guide when booking your Sri Lankan safari adventure.
What should I take with me to Sri Lanka?
For a detailed rundown of what to pack when travelling to Sri Lanka, check out our detailed packing list here.
I hope you have enjoyed my post on safaris in Sri Lanka. I’ve tried to include every safari that is available in Sri Lanka that you could possibly want. If you visit any of these places, let me know what you thought and if you enjoyed it.
If you're wondering what is the best safari in Sri Lanka, personally my favourite is the Big Game Camp, because that’s where I stayed, but to be honest, they all look fantastic and whatever you choose, you’ll have a wonderful safari experience in Sri Lanka!